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updated 1/4/2011 12:42:16 PM ET 2011-01-04T17:42:16

New York City hosted a record number of visitors in 2010, a sign that the Big Apple's tourism industry is bouncing back after a decline the previous year when travelers everywhere tightened their budgets amid the recession.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 48.7 million people visited New York last year, surpassing the city's 2008 record of 47 million.

Slideshow: The Big Apple (on this page)

The increase shows the city's travel industry may be back on track after tourism numbers slipped in 2009 for the first time since 2001.

New York saw a 7 percent increase in visitors over 2009, when there were 45.6 million. Officials said 39 million visitors were from the U.S. and 9.7 million were from abroad; both numbers are records.

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Tourism is New York City's fifth-largest industry — it contributed about $31 billion in direct spending to the economy last year.

Bloomberg also said the industry employed record numbers of New Yorkers, adding 6,600 jobs in the hospitality industry last year. A high of 25.7 million hotel room nights were sold, while Broadway attendance this season was up 3.8 percent over last season.

City officials attribute the growth to several factors, including New York's increased focus on advertising itself nationally and globally.

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The Bloomberg administration has media exchange deals with several other cities, allowing it to market its message as a place to visit, and it has a number of private partnerships with airlines and travel companies that have elevated New York's profile among domestic travelers.

The mayor also maintains that New York has an edge over other cities with its ever-changing diverse restaurants, theater productions and innovative art exhibits.

"People say 'Hey, New York — things are happening there,'" Bloomberg said. "All of this gets mixed together, and you can't say any one thing is the reason. The totality is the reason."

The Big Apple was by far the top U.S. destination for travelers from overseas, with 33 percent of total abroad visitors. Miami and Los Angeles tied for second place, each with 11 percent of the share.

Travel experts said New York is an exception among U.S. cities as far as its quick recovery over the past year.

"If you evaluate New York individually, you would think the lodging industry has gotten back to where it was. But New York is an anomaly," said Scott Berman, hospitality and leisure leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "You've got corporate demand and leisure demand from both the U.S. and overseas that are driving the strength in New York."

Tourists flocked to New York despite travel scares like the spread of bedbugs in the city and a volcano in Iceland that grounded European air travel for several days.

Top travel stories of 2010

The 2010 record was even higher than the city's projection for the year, which had been 47.5 million.

Bloomberg set a goal in 2007 of reaching 50 million visitors by 2012.

The city tabulates its visitor number using data on airport arrrivals, hotel occupancies, U.S. Department of Commerce data on international tourists and other measurements. A visitor is defined as someone who traveled more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) or spends one night in the city, not including commuters; that definition is an industry standard.

Beth J. Harpaz contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Take a Bite Out of The Big Apple

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  1. A full moon rises over the skyline of New York City, as seen across the Hudson River in Weehawken, N.J., on April 25, 2013. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Commuters move through the grand hall of Grand Central Terminal in New York City on Jan. 25, 2013. Since its grand beginnings in 1913, when it was dubbed the greatest railway terminal in the world with an $80 million price tag, Grand Central has been an integral part of New York City. (Brendan Mcdermid / REUTERS) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Revelers cheers under falling confetti at the stroke of midnight during the New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square on Jan. 1, 2014. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. One World Trade Center overlooks the wedge-shaped pavilion entrance of the National September 11 Museum, lower right, and the square outlines of the memorial waterfalls in New York. (Mark Lennihan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees walks back to the dugout after flying out in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians on June 13, 2011, at Yankee Stadium. Located in the South Bronx, the new stadium opened in 2009. (Jim Mcisaac / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Central Park was the first public park built in America. Its 843 acres include woodlands, lawns and water. Central Park was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and a New York City Landmark in 1974. More than 25 million visitors enjoy Central Park each year. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Saint Patrick's Cathedral is the largest decorated gothic-style Catholic cathedral in the U.S. The cathedral's construction began in 1858, and it opened its doors in 1879. (Vincenzo Pinto / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Skaters glide around the rink at the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink. The ice rink, open between October and April, has attracted more than 250,000 people a year since it first opened on Dec. 25, 1936. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Patrons line up outside the Apollo Theater in Harlem to see Amateur Night. Since 1934, Amateur Night at the Apollo has launched the careers of famous entertainers such as Billie Holiday, James Brown, The Isley Brothers, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, and many others. (Jonathan D. Woods / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The South Pool at the National September 11 Memorial in New York City commemorates those who died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks after two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. (Justin Lane / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Pedestrians pass along a walkway under falling snow on the Brooklyn Bridge on Jan. 3, 2014, in New York. One of the oldest suspension bridges in the U.S., the Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan and Brooklyn. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The Statue of Liberty looms over a visitor as he uses binoculars to look out onto New York Harbor on Oct. 13, 2013, in New York. About 4 million people visit the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island each year. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Coney Island features entertainment parks, rides, an aquarium, a public beach, a boardwalk, fishing and Nathan's restaurant. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. New York City Subway dancer Marcus Walden aka "Mr Wiggles" performs acrobatic tricks on the subway while passengers watch Nov. 23, 2010. More than 4.3 million people ride the New York subway system every day. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on the southern tip of two-mile-long Roosevelt Island - between Manhattan and Queens - was dedicated in 2012. (Paul Warchol / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York has been around since 1924 and includes large balloons, floats and performances. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Visitors view the Manhattan skyline from Rockefeller Center's "Top of the Rock" observation deck. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Pedestrians walk along a path on the High Line park on June 7, 2011, in New York City. The High Line was formerly an elevated railway 30 feet above the city's West Side that was built in 1934 for freight trains. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The moon rises at sunset behind New York's Empire State building, which opened in 1931. At 102 stories high, the Empire State Building is the fourth tallest skyscraper in America. (Gary Hershorn / REUTERS) Back to slideshow navigation
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